Scientific Advice and Nursing Political Competence

Section: Editorial

Authors

Azucena Santillán García

The objective of scientific advice in politics is to bring scientific knowledge closer to the discussion of public policies, and facilitate making decisions based, or at least informed, on evidences.

There are an increasingly higher number of democratic organizations demanding access to this type of knowledge, and this demand appears both at the local and the international setting. Currently we find that there are increasingly more mechanisms and structures for scientific advice, and this leads to spaces of confluence between scientific experts and decision-makers of public policies. At parliamentary level, there are Parliamentary Offices on Science and Technology (POST), present in over 20 countries. Although Spain has a good reactive system for scientific and technological advice, both for the executive and the legislative powers, it lacks a proactive system such as the POST. The work of these offices is interesting because they facilitate regular meetings between scientists and politicians, to update them in the new knowledge offered by research, and the technologies that will soon be available and would be interesting to legislate about.

The independent citizen initiative #CienciaEnelParlamento (http://www.cienciaenelparlamento.org) appeared in Spain with the aim to change this scenario and place science and knowledge at the service of Democracy. This campaign showed the Spanish Congress the need for a POST, through pilot-test sessions supported by over 3,000 persons and 200 institutions (universities, health research institutes, foundations, patient associations, social agents, etc.) The result has been the unanimous approval by the Congress of the creation of a POST in Spain (1,2).

I had the privilege to be selected as “scientific advice technician” in this initiative, and in this way I could put into practice what has been highlighted for a long time: the role of nurses in public policies. The involvement of nurses in the politic setting can present different approaches, and one of them is scientific advice. Personally, I admit that I felt initially self-conscious at sharing responsibilities with researchers from national and international research centers; but once our activity started, this feeling disappeared and I was able to appreciate the flow of relationships and the richness of the product that we were obtaining. One of the conclusions from this experience is that we nurses are full-fledged scientists, and that multidisciplinary work is absolutely necessary and highly beneficial. This is not just a conclusion, but rather the reinforcement of something that we nurses already knew. As a profession, we have the skills required to answer to the needs for scientific knowledge from democratic organizations (3); and moreover, we are particularly endowed with the skills to "participate in public life, because our level of competence allows us to individualize and contextualize policies" (4).

We are currently in a politic and social moment where we nurses need to develop our politic competence as an essential aspect of our professional commitment. The UN, the WHO and even the ICN have highlighted that poverty is the main factor of risk for the health of people, and that universal healthcare coverage is the solution for said risk. For this reason, it is necessary to have person-centered healthcare systems, also that are sustainable, that is, cost-efficient. In this sense, we must remember the claims by Dr. Alberdi regarding the suitability of nurses to conduct the politic competence: “We see aspects of the individual and group reality that no-one else perceives”, and “We are the professionals more and better qualified to solve a wide variety of problems and needs, regarding the health and development of persons and communities…”.

Therefore, politic competence, understood as "the ability to participate in writing, developing and managing public policies with the aim to change those conditions that create inequality" (4), has become the next challenge for nurses. Ultimately, we must keep in mind that it is necessary for us as nurses to get involved in the social and politic life of the Community. We have a wide vision of the problems affecting persons, and besides we have a scientific approach, which makes said vision a powerful tool for decision-making.

Bibliography

1.    Santillán-García A, Oliver E, Grigorian-Shamagian L, Climent AM, Melchor L. El conocimiento científico en las políticas públicas: #CienciaenelParlamento y la necesidad de una oficina parlamentaria de asesoramiento científico y tecnológico. Rev Gac. Sanit 2019. Doi: doi.org/10.1016/j-gaceta. 2019.08.004
2.    Catanzaro M. Spain to establish parliamentary office of science. Nature. 2018; 10. Doi:1038/d41586-018-07823-x
3.    Ellenbecker C, Edward J. Conducting Nursing Research to Advance and Inform Health Policy. Policy, Politics, & Nursing Practice. 2016; 17(4):208-17. Doi.org/10.1177/1527154417700634
4.    Alberdi Castell R. La competencia política enfermera. Rev ROL Enferm 2019; 42(1):22-30.